Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Madeleine McCann Mystery

To date, I've avoided commenting on this case, not least because I'm more than a little sick of reading about it; Madeleine isn't the only missing child in the world, y'know!

But this article, Madeleine parents' anger as police say she 'died in bedroom' in the Daily Mail is just too much to ignore. There are so many questions in this case that it's difficult to know where to start, but a good entry point is the incredible delay in asking British police officers to help in the investigation.

Now that the Portuguese police have made the request, British experts, sniffer dogs and all the usual wizardry of detection seems to be in place. And oh, look. The first thing they find in the apartment where Madeleine McCann was allegedly kidnapped is a cleaned-up blood stain on the wall.

Despite their being no publicly available information to that effect, the Portuguese police said, "Madeleine McCann was not kidnapped but died in her bedroom," according to the Daily Mail, and the Portuguese media seem to be taking the same line.

Of course, this is the same Portuguese police who seem to have messed around doing nothing very much for a very long time, and their conclusions must, as a result, be suspect. Similarly, the blood stain upon which this speculation appears to be based has yet to be identified. It could very easily belong to someone else who's stayed at that apartment, either before or after the McCanns, it could belong to a maid or other service staff or it could belong to the person who allegedly kidnapped Madeleine.

But what if it doesn't? What if the blood is that of Madeleine McCann? Under those circumstances, some very significant questions have to be asked. For instance, who cleaned up the bloodstain, and why? Would a kidnapper have the time, and the presence of mind, to start cleaning up behind him (or her), not knowing when the victim's parents might return? Would they even care - unless, perhaps, the blood is theirs rather than the victim's?

And would a kidnapper be able to enter the property, injure themselves or the victim, spirit the victim away and then clean up without waking the other two children asleep in the room? No, something is not right here.

According to the Daily Mail, "Madeleine's parents were forced to give a television interview today to counter growing claims in the Portuguese media that they were linked to their daughter's death in some way. " You can see why the media would be thinking along those lines, can't you?

For example, The Jornal De Noticias reported: "The discoveries made by the sniffer dogs, taken together, strongly support the theory that the girl (Madeleine) died in her parents' hotel room, either - as Portuguese detectives believe - the victim of an unexplained accident, or as the victim of a crime. The theory that she was kidnapped seems more and more remote."

Perhaps so; certainly, on the face of the material available in the media, it doesn't seem unlikely. But it must be remembered that the Portuguese police force has hardly distinguished itself in this affair, and such a conclusion may be no more credible than their previous comment, as reported by Mrs McCann: "Even last week the Portuguese police said, 'We are looking for a living child'."

Further, the McCann's are reasonably well educated and are probably at least as familiar as anyone with modern criminal investigation techniques. Wouldn't they do a better job of removing a blood stain, if they had, in fact, attempted to do so? Who knows.

Nonetheless, I'm astonished that it has taken so long for folks to even think about asking this kind of question. The media circus that has followed the McCanns around for weeks seems to have been almost entirely focused on the "human interest" angle of the parents' frantic search for their child. And, of course, that's a perfectly reasonable angle. But shouldn't the media also be asking searching questions?

Apparently not. When, in June 2007, German reporter Sabine Mueller asked Kate and Gerry McCann: "How do you feel that more and more people seem to imply you might have something to do with it?" there was outrage in the media, with the Mirror calling the question a slur.

No, it wasn't a slur. Whether the McCanns had anything to do with the events under scrutiny or not, it was a perfectly reasonable question, and seems all the more reasonable in light of recent developments. Naturally, I don't expect Joe Public to see things that way; to the vast majority of them, even thinking about asking such questions is a travesty of justice. Nonetheless, in the interests of everyone involved - not least the McCanns, and Madeleine, if she is still alive - they need to be asked.

A cloud of apparently not unreasonable suspicion - if the media reports are to be believed - seems to be forming around the McCanns, and, if it is unjustified, it needs to be dispelled with speed. The only way to do that is to ask the questions, examine the evidence and reach a logical, reasoned conclusion. Only then will the truth come out. The process, although belated, has started, and now needs to continue apace.

When the truth is known, the search for Madeleine McCann will be able to proceed without further trivial impedance, or be called off altogether. Time will tell.

Billy Seggars.

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